Editor's Note: Each week we excerpt Katrina vanden Heuvel's column at WashingtonPost.com.
While no one said that reforming Wall Street would be easy for President Obama, the big-money backlash against his proposals has been surprisingly swift and screechy. In 2008, high finance donated about $40 million to Obama's campaign. As a recent editorial in The Post discusses, though, the financial sector "is suffering a massive case of buyer's remorse." There is a perception on Wall Street, The Post surmises, that Professor Obama doesn't have enough real-world business savvy to understand how high finance works, and the newspaper urges the president to cozy up to his one-time benefactors for the good of the nation.
But Wall Street clearly remains far more out of touch than Washington, and after reading some of the words emanating from the Masters of the Universe, one might plausibly wonder if America's lords of finance have spent the last three years living on Saturn.
Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder of the private-equity firm Blackstone Group, recently compared Obama's plans to tax private-equity compensation to Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939. (He later apologized for the "inappropriate analogy," but he’s nonetheless going to have trouble living that one down.) And in his second quarter 2010 letter to investors, distributed on Aug. 27, Daniel S. Loeb, founder of the hedge fund Third Point LLC, wrote, "Perhaps our leaders will awaken to the fact that free market capitalism is the best system to allocate resources and create innovation, growth and jobs.… Perhaps, too, a cloven-hoofed, bristly haired mammal will become airborne and the rosette-like marking of a certain breed of ferocious feline will become altered. In other words, we are not holding our breath." Andrew Ross Sorkin quipped that Loeb’s letter "sounded as if he were preparing to join [Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' rally] in Washington."
Why such hysteria and hyperbole? Shining through the ridiculous rhetoric is pure greed..
Read the rest of Katrina's column at WashingtonPost.com.